About Us
Back Issues
Forthcoming Issues
Print Edition
Contact Us
IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
Vol. 11    Issue 04   01-15 July 2016

Ramadan North and South

An intimate look at the month of Ramadan through the eyes of Muslims in opposite ends of the world.

Once a year, for a whole month, Muslims around the world observe the holy month of Ramadan. Family, community work, prayer, reflection and, most importantly, fasting from sunrise to sunset, are the main elements of the month.

However, observing Ramadan is not always straightforward in countries where Muslims are in the clear minority.

So how do Muslims in the Western world put their faith into practice when lifestyles can often be so different?

Ramadan has recently fallen in July and August, summer in the northern hemisphere and winter in the south.

Fasting during daylight hours in Iceland, where there can be 24-hour sunshine in summer, contrasts sharply with the short days of the New Zealand winter - but each posts different challenges for the minority Muslim communities of the two countries at opposite ends of the globe.

There are almost 50,000 Muslims in New Zealand now, 1 percent of the population.

The numbers of indigenous Maori converts are also on the rise, some claiming it helps them to connect with the true nature of their heritage.

Carlos Brokeen, now known as Abdulaziz, his extended Maori family and friends in Hastings on the South Island, are relatively recent converts.

"People look at me like I'm not a Maori because of my clothing," says Carlos, indicating his salwar kameez. "But then they've got to turn around and look at what they are wearing."

With a troubled past including gang violence and drug abuse, Islam has brought him and his family a fresh start and a new inner peace, especially evident during Ramadan.

"Once I became a Muslim it became obligatory upon me to seek knowledge. So now I know more about my history than I did before I was a Muslim. I feel strong and more intact with my Maoridom," he continues.

For the family, Ramadan can be both the best and hardest time of year. It's sometimes difficult to cram everything into a shortened winter day.

But over in Iceland, the day sometimes never ends for its estimated 1,200 Muslims.

Sverrir Ibrahim Agnarsson came to Iceland as a Muslim in 1973 and is Chair of the Association of Muslims in Iceland. If he and his fellow Muslims adhered strictly to Quran timings - sunrise to sunset - they might not be able to pray Isha (the night prayer) until December.

"In middle of June and July we have 24-hour sunshine," says Agnarsson. "In Reykjavik the sun goes down but it never gets dark."

One year when Ramadan fell in July, he approached the religious authorities in Cairo for guidance and was told he should start fasting at dawn - but only for the same duration as fasting hours in Mecca, a much more manageable 15 hours.

Although the Muslim communities of the New Zealand town of Hastings and the Icelandic capital Reykyavik are literally a world apart, it's clear that Ramadan is the same deeply spiritual time for both of them.

(Source: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/aljazeeraworld/2016/06/ramadan-north-south-160628084051654.html)

Meet the Turkish family in Norway who fasts 22 hours a day

Fasting can be a challenge for Muslims in one of Norway's northernmost cities of Tromso as the sun does not set for two months during the summer.

Tromso is considered the northernmost city in the world with a population above 50,000.

Meet Cansu and Azmi Arıkan, a Turkish couple living in the city for several years, fast for an unbelievable 22 hours a day.

According to the timetable provided by the Turkish Religious Affairs Directorate, iftar (time when the sunsets and the fast is broken) is at 11:22 p.m. while the calculated time to start the fast is just two hours later at 1:22 a.m., so Muslims in the city fast for an exact 22 hours.

Arıkan family, who moved to Tromso in 2006, are from central Turkey and part of the Turkish minority in Norway.

"Norway is a pretty cold country, but we are accustomed to the weather conditions," Azmi Arıkan said.

(Source: http://www.dailysabah.com/religion/2016/06/20/meet-the-turkish-family-in-norway-who-fasts-22-hours-a-day)

Buddhist monks serve iftar for Muslims in Bangladesh

Monastery has been serving iftar meals to underprivileged Muslims during Ramadan for the past six years.

Dhaka, Bangladesh - Every day during Ramadan, hundreds of Muslim men, women and children queue in front of a Buddhist monastery in the Bangladeshi capital to receive iftar, the food with which Muslims break their fast at sunset during the holy month.

The initiative by Dharmarajika Buddhist monastery to distribute food to poor and destitute Muslims is a rare example of social harmony between two groups from two different religions in a country that has witnessed a spate of fatal attacks against minorities and secular activists.

The Dharmarajika Buddhist monastery began this project six years ago, and monks say Ramadan is the best opportunity to help poor Muslims.

The high priest of the temple, Shuddhanando Mohathero, who initiated the project, believes that "humanity is the ultimate goal of humans".

Abul Basahr, a shopkeeper living in the area, told Al Jazeera that monks at the Buddhist temple engaged in several social welfare activities. "The best thing they are doing is the distribution of iftar food to the poor people," he said.

Established in 1951 in Basabo area of Dhaka, the monastery, monk Karuna Bhikkhu says, works for harmony in the society.

Karuna says it is an effort to build good relations with Muslim community, who form nearly 90 percent of the population. Buddhist comprise less than one percent of this nation of 160 million.

Harun Miah, the owner of a local restaurant, has been working with the monastery for past five years to cook iftar meals.

He says the iftar consisting of potato chops, peyaju (onion tempura), beguni (eggplant tempura), chhola-boot (lentils), khejur (dates), muri (puffed rice), and jilapi (a sweet made of sugar syrup) are served in a box.

Buddhapriya Mahathero, the second-high priest of the monastery, said at least 300 poor people are served daily.

"The people start making queues from 3pm onwards inside the monastery," he told Al Jazeera.

For people like Sakhina, who cannot afford an iftar, the free food at the monastery is a godsend gift.

"Here, we are granted respect that we were supposed to get from our co-religists," she told Al Jazeera.

Despite a recent spike in violence in the South Asian nation, the monks say they are not worried about their safety and have a very good relation with the Muslim community.

Mahathero, a firm believer in inter-religious harmony said: "Why should there be a conflict? We are all Bangladeshis. This land is for all of us. By helping each other, we can make this country great."

(Source: http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/2016/06/buddhist-monks-serve-iftar-muslims-bangladesh-160624063418703.html)

Name * :
E-mail * :
Add Your Comment :
Home About Us Announcement Forthcoming Features Feed Back Contact Us
Copyright© 2016 All rights reserved.